The Church: Her Mission and Structure

[This was written in reply to an article discussing a supposed patriarchal domination in history and the Church]

As perspective and perception play large roles in determining one’s response and sentiments regarding an issue, it may be fruitful to turn to the Ecclesiological understanding of the matter. 

We must keep in mind that the mission of the Church is fudamentally derived, rather than created. It is the Father who sends the Son, who, in turn and through the Holy Spirit, delegates His own mission to the Apostles, and through them to the entire Church. 

Thus, the activity of the Church must be first of all seen to be Pneumatological – that is, of the Holy Spirit – and directed toward its Eschatological end – that is, toward the consummation of the world and the coming of Christ. 

There is a risk of speciously perceiving the Church as a humanistic, sociological institution. It is, as Lumen Gentium states in the opening chapter, in fact a sacrament reflecting Christ’s two natures. The Church is human as well as divine, as the Holy Spirit works with human members in her. It therefore exists not for temporal purposes (although these are legitimate means and intermediate ends), but for the purpose of consecrating the world to Christ, thus bringing them to salvation, and to contemplation of God in the Beatific Vision. 

Now, because of the analogical nature of creation, which reflect that of God, all things in creation have some signification. The Holy Spirit respects this, being united with the Word through which all things have their being, and so the Pneumatic mission of the Church, which has its origin in Christ Himself, has a divinely destined structure (for a body without a form cannot exist, and the Church is that of Christ). 

This cannot be grasped purely at the natural level, since it is, as Lumen Gentium affirms, a divine and sacramental mystery. It requires the faithful’s thirst for the divine gifts – the theological virtues – of faith, hope and charity. As these virtues are inextricably linked to salvation – that is, one cannot be saved without them – the Church is rightfully called the Ark of Salvation.

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